Tag Archives: royal ballet

The Doctor is In

18 Jul

At long last, the quasi-wife has watched Manon!  After insisting for so long that she would like the ballet, she has seen it and the conclusion is matrimonial.  I should be like a ballet doctor or something…study as many ballets as I can and diagnose people who haven’t seen much with the proper remedy.  Enjoy a good story, period pieces, expensive things and consider yourself to be an indecent Francophile?  Take a Manon and call me in the morning.  It’s all a part of a much larger and grander scheme to MacMillanify the residents of Seattle, one at a time (although I’m sure there are many Seattleites who have long enjoyed MacMillan ballets of their own accord).  It’s unfortunate that Seattle doesn’t get exposed to the British choreographers via live performance and I don’t know that Pacific Northwest Ballet would (or should for that matter) change its philosophy on modeling itself after New York City Ballet (although they’ve announced that they will perform Giselle in the upcoming season.  Very out of character but also incredibly exciting).  I’m not even sure PNB even has the resources to pull off a MacMillan full length (damn you privatized funding for the arts!) but regardless of PNB’s artistic direction I will assist in being a catalyst anyway; the demand must be created and like a pyramid, it has to start from the bottom up.  Now that my track record includes an earth-shattering two people, construction of MacMillan monument has begun.

Speaking of catalysts let it be known (or reiterated, depending on what you know) that Manon was the ballet that changed my life.  You know how everyone has that one performer/performance that inspired them and for me it was Tamara Rojo in this role, just over a year ago.  Rojo herself said it in the special features of the DVD that she was similarly inspired, that she had no idea that a story could be told through ballet like it is in Manon and that it was one of the main reasons why she wanted to join the Royal Ballet.  I felt exactly the same way (not the joining the Royal Ballet part, the storytelling thing) and as a result became disillusioned with Russian dancing.  Don’t get me wrong…they have their greats, their moments and some of the most expensive productions in the world but Manon helped me to affirm aspects in ballet that I have come to love.  As I see it in the arts, it’s not a matter of love or hate (although we inevitably have these reactions) but a conscious decision to prefer something over something else.  It’s the kind of preference that has me longing for London, as the Royal Ballet announced they will perform Manon in the spring.  There is little chance for me to go because I’m not a jet-setter who can zip off to London on a whim but OY do I hunger!

At any rate, quasi-wife took to Manon like a bee to honey, appreciative of the ballet as a whole and a fan of the chemistry between Rojo and Carlos Acosta.  It’s something she tends to look for in a ballet (noting earlier this year that the performance of PNB’s Coppelia she saw was lacking in chemistry between the principals) and I’m guessing it’s probably because she has issues with men or whatever.  The point is, while she was skeptical about the romance between Manon and Des Grieux, she found the connection between them genuine.  I had to retrain her way of thinking and forced her to watch the DVD extras which includes a bit where Dame Monica Mason explains that while love doesn’t blossom as quickly as it does in a five minute pas de deux, from a theatrical standpoint the audience accepts it.  It was odd that quasi-wife didn’t quite buy into that, nor did she really buy into the fact that Manon would allow herself to be manipulated by Lescaut for jewels and lavish clothes…but we went shopping earlier that day and between the two of us, one of us bought a one hundred dollar, Donna Karan New York olive green trench coat and one of us did not.  I’ll let you take a wild guess as to who did what now.

Meanwhile, remember in my Chaconne post that partnered pivot I discussed?  Let us revisit the bedroom pas de deux for just a moment…

Wheee!

Like many, quasi-wife found it rather disturbing.  It’s funny to me that Tamara’s feet are so visible throughout the ballet but they don’t come across as freakish until that particular move.  It’s all “she’s so gorgeous!” and then “HELLO.”  She also thought that the rolling movement Manon does in the pas de trois with Lescaut and Monsieur G.M. where she leans forward in an arabesque but then her other foot snakes forward to lead her over Monsieur G.M.’s back disturbing too…I said we could find a third person and try it but she didn’t seem to keen on the idea.  I guess quasi-wife still needs to be seasoned a little to get past odd, perhaps inhuman looking movements to see the beauty and genius of MacMillan’s choreography, but all in due time.  I know for me, the more I watch Manon (and I never tire of it) the more I fall in love with it and understand it on a deeper level.  I was stumped though when she asked me what type of ballet Manon would be and I settled on answering with neoclassical, even though I kept picturing Balanchine’s abstract works.

Despite my obsession with Manon (it is by far my favorite full length ballet), I don’t know that I’ll ever consider myself a true balletomane until I see another run of it and do that balletomane thing where you see multiple casts.  I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t do it when I had the chance…so little did I know at the time.  If I could go back in time, I would have been all over the opportunity to see Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg dance it together.  This will have to do for now:

Photography by John Ross

27 Jun

You can’t call yourself a true blue ballet zealot until you require that it infiltrate the décor of your home.  After all, fans of dance tend to have an eye for shape, color, movement and harmony (or discord if that’s your preference).  Such qualities can also be seen in interior design and I figured…ABSOLUTELY.  So in order to sate the beasty mcbeast, I turned to photographer John Ross, who has several galleries for your perusal (link at ballet.co).  I was excited to see that prints were available for purchase so I contacted Mr. Ross and after much deliberation selected a couple of photos that appealed to my senses.

Take a gander!

I don't normally display phoos on easels by the way...it's going to go on the wall!

At this point I figured I’ve made my preferences somewhat predictable so I hope that it comes as no surprise that one of the photos I picked was from Symphonic Variations.  There are so many wonderful, picturesque moments from the ballet and Mr. Ross even has picture sets from two different performances.  It was hard to decide but ultimately I went with something that was visually dramatic but technically simple.  It has the three women and one male dancer linking hands, with the women en pointe in fourth position, heads tilted just a romantic itsy-bit.  The photo is a lovely close-up so many of the costume details, hair accessories and the minor fact that the picture was taken a split second before the dancer on the far left actually had any weight on her front foot are easily seen (especially when you buy a 12” x 16” enlargement!).  As striking as the photograph is by itself, it’s like a ballerina without a partner in a pas de deux…it needs framing.  Furthermore, I am of the school of thought that matting is a must.  When the question is “to matte or not to matte?” go with the latter.  Not only does such fine photography deserve it, but matting is a perfect opportunity to enhance visual interest.  I purchased pre-cut, double layered matting that was white on top with a black layer underneath and paired with the wide black frame, it echoes the design of the man’s costume.

Now a picture may be worth a thousand words, but a room needs a thousand and six.  I paired the photo with a curtain from Anthropologie, the store where the trendy woman’s mantra apparently becomes “resistance is futile.”  I have never purchased anything from said store…nevertheless I was most astonishingly inspired by that curtain.  In reality it’s a shower curtain but I’m taking it upon myself to use it as a portiere for a storage closet that is without a door.  Unfortunately it’s not sold in US stores anymore but they can be nabbed on ebay for significantly discounted prices.  It’s called “Knotted Vines,” but it should really be called the “Symphonic Variations” curtain because the design has the same sort of sweeping movement and greenish-gold coloring of the backdrop.  That’s probably why I was attracted to it in the first place and although green, yellow and gray are not colors I normally gravitate towards (I have a weird thing where artificial greens never look right to me…I prefer natural greens in plants, like those that can be seen outside my abnormally shaped window in the background), the it just works for me.  One photo is never enough though…

A cooler color pallette...

Here we see a couple of things…a super-cute poster sent to me by the Bag Ladies of The Ballet Bag for playing ballet mad-libs and the other photo I purchased of Tamara Rojo and Federico Bonelli (BoBo) in Jerome Robbins’s Dances at a Gathering.  Of course I had to have some Rojo adorning my walls; I’ve recently begun Secret Muses: The Life of Frederick Ashton and the first few pages discuss how inspired Ashton was as a little boy when he saw legendary ballerina Anna Pavlova on stage and it immediately reminded me of the way I felt when I saw Rojo dance Manon (the anniversary of which was yesterday!).  Her dancing (and the Royal Ballet) completely changes the way I saw dance and I guess that makes her my muse in a way.  Coincidentally (well, not really) I stayed in the same sort of era with this second photo and again went for something technically simple but visually dramatic, with Rojo in arabesque and BoBo in a forward extension (développé croisé devant?  I’m awful with the direction words and such).  It’s hard to see in the above photograph, but the background is a dark blue and her costume is lavender, which I like with the periwinkle blues of The Ballet Bag poster and as Stacy London of What Not to Wear would say, the “pop of color” with the contrasting orange.  I really loved the simplicity of line and the connection between Rojo and BoBo’s faces—it’s a very subtle electricity and really breathes life into the photo.  The frame and matting are the same (I purchased them at Aaron Brothers in downtown Seattle) as the store was having a sale of “buy one get one for a penny.”  Perfect!

The only thing missing is a third photo of Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux to complete my neoclassical triad, but I couldn’t find a picture of the Royal Ballet performing it in the galleries so I’ll have to put that dream on hold (there are a few of the Mariinsky, but Russian dancers’ performances of it have often left me unsatisfied so it just wouldn’t feel right).  At any rate, I am beyond thrilled and satisfied with my purchases from Mr. Ross so if anyone’s interested in his photography, do send him an e-mail!  My experiences were A+ and he offers multiple sizes of prints for excellent prices.  He is based in the UK, but has a son in California so US buyers can pay by check in US dollars and avoid the hassle of dealing with foreign currency or additional bank fees.  It couldn’t be easier to add beautiful ballet photography to your home and support another artist along the way.  Do it!

Greek Geek it Out

4 Mar

It has to be said; I’ve yet to see a Frederick Ashton ballet I wasn’t completely in love with.  Hence, I am giddy with excitement for the DVD release of Ondine (scheduled for April 1st, the day before my birthday!) with Miyako Yoshida in the title role and Edward Watson as Palemon.  However, my latest Ashton adventure has been a viewing of Sylvia, with Darcey Bussell and Roberto Bolle.  While I’ve seen clips of both, this is the first full length work I’ve seen them perform in.  I like Bussell a lot; her dancing is so pure and regal.  An elegant ballerina is far from an original concept but Bussell pulls it off with a certain modesty that sets her apart.  And when it comes to Bolle <insert collective dreamy sigh> I get it.  Handsome face with a ridiculously favorable bone structure, tall, long limbed but not gangly and immense amounts of talent for dancing.  Ladies and gentlemen all over the world are utterly enchanted by him; one YouTube user claims that he’s the reincarnation of a Greek god, which is quite an artistic tribute (although Antinous was technically not a god and the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who had a thing for Antinous deified him after his mysterious death.  Take from that what you will!).

Classical mythology is of course perfectly suited for a discussion on Sylvia, since that’s what the story is grounded in.  Unfortunately Sylvia, while loosely based on Torquato Tasso’s play Aminta, doesn’t have much of a plot or substantial character development (I intended to read the play for further insight—didn’t happen).  So the story is very simple and requires no in-depth analysis of the program notes.  Man loves warrior nymph, warrior nymph denounces love.  Warrior nymph kills man, and Eros god of love intervenes. Hunter man kidnaps warrior nymph who now loves man, Warrior nymph gets hunter man drunk, Eros intervenes again.  Lovers reunite, hunter man killed by Diana, Diana about to kill man but Eros intervenes (see a theme?).  The end.  Ashton did his best to flesh out the story a bit but it’s not a riveting plot.  I was interested though, in how at the very beginning when Aminta is in love with Sylvia but she refutes his advances, she shows her disdain in the lifts.  Even though Aminta is the one to lift her, it’s as though she commands him and yet the hunter Orion barely has to touch her and she wilts like a flower.  Aminta does have a transformation (being resurrected by a god will do that to you) and shows more vitality in the end, which was in my opinion, the only significant growth in any character (I wouldn’t count Sylvia because being shot by an arrow of love doesn’t really prove anything).  Weak plot and characters aside, the magic of the ballet is in the score and Ashton’s delightful choreography.  Léo Delibes’s score is effervescent and incredibly difficult as well.  The grand pas de deux between Aminta and Sylvia in Act III sounds like it’s from a violin concerto.

As for Ashton’s choreography…it is of course brilliant.  I’ve mentioned before that Ashton is a genius when it comes to staging dances with props, which aren’t added just for the sake of theatrics but are at times used in cleverly aesthetic ways.  Sylvia has a following of nymphs carrying large bows which are obviously cumbersome and not only do they have to dance with them in hand they have to pull on the strings at certain moments which creates more interesting shapes and lines, in addition to the curvature of the bow itself.  Sylvia is given a dinkier bow, since she has bigger movements to do but the nymphs have considerable dancing to do as well, including a brief moment of fouettés in unison.  Unison fouettés always strikes me as a little too “dance team,” but I love Ashton’s work so I’ll let him get away with it.  I do believe dance team is an American innovation anyway, so I can take comfort in knowing there’s virtually no connection there.  Choreographic intent makes the difference here.  Apologies for harping on dance team a bit…but if you know me you know I firmly believe you can mix business with pleasure but I prefer to keep my art and competition separate.

Another signature of Ashton is to personify animals through dance which he does during a bacchanal (a festival in honor of Bacchus, Roman god of wine) at the Temple of Diana, with two dancers as goats (if it’s a proper bacchanal, little do they know they’re going to be sacrificed at some point during the festivities).  Ashton of course had a wonderful sense of humor, especially to have Sylvia and Aminta perform their virtuosic variations, followed by this pair of dancing goats (you know that joke you do with fortune cookies where you add “in bed” to the end of every fortune?  Try adding “in bed with a goat.”  It makes everything so much funnier).  The goats have quirky, playful movements which are much less literal then the chickens in La Fille, but you can’t help but smile when watching the goat pas de deux.

As for the variations and pas de deux, Bussell showed crisp, clean lines and superb control.  One of the things I love about Ashton choreography is the way he uses smaller steps and movements which don’t always look like the most difficult, even though they often are.  In a lot of other classical variations you’ll typically see ballerinas indulging in huge extensions, big leg kicks, multiple pirouettes or impressive leaps, while in Ashton’s variation for Sylvia you don’t really see any of that.  There’s a lot of little steps and jumps that are perfectly suited to the pizzicato melody played by the strings, which really gives you a sense that Ashton had more concern for the choreography than he did a dancer’s ego.

I also found Aminta’s variation pleasing as well.  For one thing the music is nice and light, as I sometimes find music for male variations to be really heavy on the “oom-pa” (like DonQ, Corsaire, Flames of Paris, etc.).  However, Aminta’s variation has buoyancy without the heavy brassiness.  There’s a wonderful symmetry to the choreography for the variation, since most typically ask a dancer to “show their good side,” but Ashton repeats certain phrases giving it a nice balance and satisfying us neurotics.  He also uses some creative jumps, the way Bolle tucks his leg underneath in the opening diagonal is a nice touch but my favorite step comes after the sequence of cabrioles (which happen right after the first two diagonals of leaps) and he does a variation on the failli-assemblé, except the assemblé has a rond de jambe with the leading leg, opens to second midair and closes to fifth.  If you have no idea what that means, that’s okay…just watch for him to go to the corner, then travel in a diagonal doing a little hop into another jump where the front leg does a wiggly-do.

Obviously, I enjoyed Sylvia a lot.  It’s uncomplicated, light and sweet…like cotton candy.  In bed.  With a goat.

(Sylvia is available in full on YouTube, but the video size seems to be distorted and will drive you crazy.  Getting your hands on the DVD is highly recommended and now that I’ve returned my overdue copy to the Ohio State library, you can!  Or if you’re super lucky, you can see the Royal Ballet perform it this fall.  I will if I win the lottery.)

Everybody sweats in Cuba

9 Jan

Earlier this year the Royal Ballet made a historic maiden visit to Cuba, and subsequently a documentary was made to…document the whole sha-bang.  This documentary was filmed and produced by the Ballet Boyz, former leading Royal Ballet dancers (and now award winning filmmakers) Billy Trevitt and Michael Nunn.  This recent venture in Cuba was broadcast on More4, a UK channel that…well, as an American I’m not really sure what they’re all about, but they do some programming on the arts.  I don’t know how accessible this channel is to the average household in the UK, but it’s certainly not accessible in the US and so I was overjoyed when the twittervines had announced its magnificent appearance on YouTube.  And not just excerpts, oh no…the WHOLE thing.  Someone took the time to capture, compress, upload and process an hour long documentary for the benefit of people they don’t even know.  Feel loved, because people care!

And if you’re American, feel ashamed.

Okay, maybe ashamed is a strong word, but don’t other Americans out there feel a twinge of humiliation when they see (or I guess don’t see?) how other nations treat the arts?  It’s so rare for PBS to broadcast anything dance related, and when they do it’s usually something historical (like the American Masters series on Jerome Robbins…I believe there was one on Balanchine at some point, but the Robbins one was broadcast more recently…well, over a year ago), while the UK is actually broadcasting current documentaries, not to mention a few live broadcasts from Covent Garden on BBC (the BBC?).  Even cinemas show ballets, as I’ve read that the recently filmed performance of Mayerling starring Ed Watson that is to be released on DVD soon is actually being shown in theatres.  Some theatres here “try,” but when all you get is a Swan Lake and a Nutcracker it’s like being stranded on a deserted island and trying to build a raft to escape out of toothpicks.  Even in Cuba, the audiences loves their ballet, dancers make the news, and even your average barber will go to the town square to watch a live broadcast of the Royal Ballet projected onto tarps, not even getting to see the performance itself live! Sometimes I wonder, especially during the misery that is winter, if it would be worth giving up this capitalist environment for hot weather, public healthcare and good mangoes.  I know things aren’t perfect in Cuba…but perfectionism is a disease anyway (I don’t search for perfect…just fit).

Despite the constant reminders that ABT and NYCB are virtually inaccessible to the American public outside of the apparent fortress of Manhattan (ABT had a similarly historic visit to Beijing and there were a couple of measly articles, but nothing in national newspapers that I know of.  I mean really…does either company care about increasing their reputations at home before going abroad?  Can they really call themselves national icons if it’s probably safe to say I could survey people on the streets and the vast majority won’t be able to name a single principal dancer with either company, and maybe not even KNOW of either company?)  and that our system of funding for the arts is…not entirely crappy but could definitely use improvement (as goddess Rojo herself would tell you, singing the praises of the British system), I thoroughly enjoyed the documentary.  I thought it was so well done to appeal to both balletomanes and new viewers alike, neither condescending nor trite, with significant excerpts from the dances they performed (except Manon).  It looks like it was the same program to come to Washington DC that included Manon, Chroma (the one that got away) and A Month in the Country (the one that I’m now thinking REALLY got away).

This documentary really had everything though…rehearsal footage, performance footage, excursions into the heart of Havana, lots of sweating…a thorough yet simple look at the tour, with plenty of drama and a tasteful sense of humor.  Oy the drama!  Some dancers got swine flu, a last minute injury saw Jonathan Cope coming out of retirement to perform A Month in the Country, despite the fact that he hadn’t been in a class for two years (and yet he could still do a quadruple pirouette en dedans, and stop in attitude.  Seriously?).  Lots of drama for Tamara Rojo too, although none of it was her fault by any means.  I have to say she was totally bad-ass for many reasons, because she performed double duty in the gala by doing the Don Quixote and Le Corsaire grand pas de deux, and not only did she do them but DonQ was with only one half hour rehearsal with a man she had never danced with before and Corsaire was the pressure cooker because Carlos Acosta, homecoming king, was her partner for that so it had to be spectacular.  Not to mention she would surely do the lead in one of the performances of Manon, so I’m guessing she was rather frazzled and stressed.  She’s pretty poised and maintains her calm, but my favorite moment is when the generator dies (and thus, their stage lights) and she drops an f-bomb.  The best people in the world are the ones that are always giving you reasons to like them more.  I love that she contributed to the program’s advisory for coarse language.

Great fun to see Carlos Acosta in his element as well…he was so excited in their post-performance trip to the downtown square to greet the fans who watched the projections.  Plus, watching him interact with his fellow dancers is doing wonders for my Cuban accent.  It’s interesting to see them get the rockstar treatment though…some might abhor that and call it improper, but I say…why not?  There isn’t one way to dance…there shouldn’t be one way to be a fan.  Certain etiquette is to be observed, but when the curtain is down and it’s time to celebrate the performance I say have at it.  I think dancers should be able to do both hugs and bouquets or shaking hands and playing the crowd.  Really, the sky is the limit…but don’t do anything that might result in a restraining order.

Be sure to watch The Royal Ballet in Cuba, in all glorious eight parts, beginning with this one:

Time for 2010

31 Dec

Seeing as how it’s time to ring in the New Year, it’s time for some kind of reflection.  Which, for perhaps the first time in my life is going to be relatively easy, because I’ve documented a great deal of the dance related significant events in this blog.  Normally, I can never remember anything, which is part of the reason why I wanted to start a blog in the first place.  It’s part of the double-edged sword when you’re the kind of person who has a lot of thoughts about a particular subject…you tend to forget a great deal of those ideas.  But no longer shall I cast them into the abyss!  So here are my thoughts on a few of things that made 2009 special for me.

1. Blogging

This was the year I started blogging.  It all began when at the beginning of the summer, I went to see the Bolshoi perform Le Corsaire and The Royal Ballet perform Manon in Washington DC.  Two major ballet companies within one week…it was a sweet deal.  Personally, although DC doesn’t have as frequent of performances as New York City, I think DC gets the better end of the arabesque because they get a much more interesting variety of companies.  Since NYC is almost monopolized by American Ballet Theater and New York City Ballet, they don’t always get a lot of touring companies.  Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that…since between the two companies there’s a solid coverage of classics, contemporary works and of course nowhere else can you sate your hunger for the Balanchine repertoire to your heart’s content.  However, both ABT and NYCB make a pilgrimage to DC (I’m pretty sure they go at least once every year), and DC is virtually the only city that ever gets the Mariinsky, Bolshoi and Royal Ballet.  So while shows aren’t as frequent, I think the quality and variety say it all…blasphemous, perhaps, but I would pick DC as the best place for ballet in the US (thankfully, from DC, New York is just a hop skip and a step away anyway).

So much rambling and nothing to do with blogging…anyway, so I wanted to document the whole experience and did so.  I also joined twitter, even though at the time I really didn’t “get it,” and I figured a couple of my friends would read the blog and that would be that.  Little did I know, that would lead to the catalyst that changed everything.  Somehow, the Bag Ladies over at TheBalletBag found my post on Manon, twittered it and before I knew it, people were actually visiting, reading and more importantly enjoying the things I wrote.  I don’t know how they found my blog, although I really shouldn’t have been surprised considering they’re the oracles of the ballet world…know all, see all (and that’s not an exaggeration).  Regardless, I got a lot of fulfillment from the idea that people enjoyed my writing.  Back in high school, several teachers told me I wasn’t a very good writer and so I kind of assumed they were right.  Fast forward to college and I had professors tell me I had a gift to write.  At first I didn’t believe them, but slowly I got used to the idea and that was the moment it dawned on me why so many people say high school sucks…the majority of the things people tell you there is a load of crap.  So many thanks to the Bag Ladies for helping get my blog out there and to all my friends and readers…you have been a significant highlight for 2009!

2. Sir Frederick Ashton

This was the year I discovered Sir Frederick Ashton (for myself obviously…one doesn’t “discover” a deceased man who is already famous).   I used to think Balanchine was probably my favorite choreographer, but there’s a number of his works that I don’t dislike but don’t appeal to my nature.  Meanwhile, I have yet to meet an Ashton work I didn’t find equally (if not more) musical than Balanchine and Ashton had an amazing ability to incorporate comedy into his ballets.  I have liked all of Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s ballets thus far, with the exception of Romeo and Juliet (and I realize Ashton has done one as well) but I think MacMillan’s ballets have a certain sophistication that…eludes me?  But this doesn’t prevent me (nor should it prevent anyone else) from enjoying his work.  At any rate, I think Ashton was incredibly versatile, and what I love about some of his ballets is that they are very child friendly and yet they can also appeal to the inner child in every adult.  I love his simplicity, clever use of props…just everything about his vision of ballet.  Of course, Symphonic Variations has ascended into the upper echelon of my favorite ballets because it embodies everything I love to see in a dance (my post on Symphonic Variations was definitely one of my favorites of the year).  Heck, 2009 was worth it just for Symphonic Variations alone!  Steven McRae of the Royal Ballet said that dancing it was like a “religious experience”…well Mr. McRae, I can tell you that viewing it was just as spiritual for me (and I didn’t even see it live!).  Man I love Australians.

3. Quadruple pirouette

Hell, that speaks for itself.  Even if it ends up being a once in a lifetime experience, it was worth it.

4. Tamara Rojo

I love you.  That is all.

So what does 2010 hold in store?  Nobody knows for sure…I’m never good with long term planning and I try to allow for spontaneity as much as possible because the older I get the more I feel like planning turns people into these zombie denizens (aka “adults”) that have no sense of adventure in life.  Total buzz kill

However, I do have some exciting (well I think they’re exciting) plans for my blog next year.  I am thinking of doing interviews with dancers…professionals?  Probably not.  But I know a lot of people who dance or are involved with dance in some way and I truly believe everyone has an interesting story to tell even if they aren’t in the upper echelon of whatever it is they do.  I’d like to think that I’m just the right person for eliciting those stories and polishing it for other people to read (and if I can spin it into something funny, then everybody wins).  If I’m not that person…well, I may as well practice so that I can be.

I also will also be begging people for more guest posts.  My quasi-wife Erina, who is currently teaching in some city in France, wants to vacation in Paris when her contract is up at the end of the spring before coming home to the US (and possibly going back under a new contract…but that’s another story.  I wish I knew details, but apparently it’s difficult to get the internet in France).  It just so happens that her end date coincides perfectly with Paris Opera Ballet’s La Bayadere.  I’ve demanded that she go, that it’s an “almost once in a lifetime experience” and to write a review or response of some kind.  I’m really excited for her because she’s seen Pacific Northwest Ballet growing up, but POB is a different beast.  It should be interesting because she’s not really a dancer, or the balletomane who knows the technical jargon.  She has the opportunity to see the production through virtually unjaded eyes, which I find a fascinating prospect.  So hopefully we’ll have that to look forward to…I keep badgering her every chance I get.  I’m *this* close to buying a ticket for her to make sure she goes.

Of course I promise posts a plenty from meself and beyond that I feel so encouraged by the response to this blog, I decided to really pursue a long (but ideally short) term goal, which is to write and publish a novel.  Since I was little, I’ve always known that I wanted to write a book, got discouraged in high school but now I feel that I’m at a point in my life when I can really achieve this.  Personally I don’t think there’s enough dance related fiction out there and the novels that are out there are kind of…melodramatic or dull.  As with this blog I endeavor to write lighthearted entertainment.  Humor is the name of the game and if I can contribute to the dispelling of the image of snobbery in ballet and make it more approachable to the average person, I’d be thrilled.  So 2010…let’s make it happen.  I’m ready for you.  Almost (still lots of research to do!).

The Human Aquarium

10 Dec

I’ve had this lingering Ashton after taste for a while, even though I haven’t watched an Ashton work in weeks.  For whatever reason, it’s fresh in my mind and despite the fact that I’m anxious to watch the DVD of his The Tales of Beatrix Potter that I just got from the library, I was getting the feeling that watching another Ashton work would drive me insane.  Nothing wrong with his ballets (obviously), but I need variety to survive.  For me it’s not the spice of life; it’s the chocolate chips to my cookie.  Life is worthless without variety.

Being in the funk that I was, I decided to take my first step into the world of Wayne McGregor, resident choreographer for the Royal Ballet.  Back when I went to see Manon at the beginning of the summer, his work Chroma was featured as a part of a triple bill that the Royal Ballet was also touring.  Between the two I chose Manon because of Carlos Acosta, but the playbill for the Royal Ballet featured a photo from Chroma and the image is kind of burned into the recesses of me brain.  Since then, I’ve categorized Chroma as “the one that got away,” because I had the opportunity to see it, but neither the knowledge nor the money.  Accordingly (and because my life hates me), it still eludes me because McGregor ballets haven’t been released on DVD as far as I know, but Infra, another one of his works is available in full on YouTube.  Okay, so maybe life doesn’t hate me after all.

After watching a brief interview with McGregor in a video by the Royal Opera House (who maintain an excellent presence on YouTube, Twitter and now iTunes), I had a sinking feeling I was in trouble.  His piece is about “inferences” and “human relationships” and I hate to say it, but I get a little annoyed when choreographers say that their dances are about “human relationships,” because that is the vaguest answer in the entire world.  I don’t have a problem with viewing a dance as a work of art and deciding for myself what I get out of the piece, but when I hear “human relationships” I can’t help but lose a sense of…something.  I can’t put my finger on it, but somehow dances inspired by human relationships fall into a certain abyss in my mind.  It’s not that I didn’t see or that I don’t understand human relationships in Infra, I just don’t see them the way McGregor does.  As usual, I blame the Aries in me…we don’t like to beat around the bush and inferences are often seen as a waste of time when one can head butt the source.  Crude, but true.

What I found interesting about Infra was that it has a lot of itsy-bitsy movements and explored the body in different ways, and although the dancers rely on their grounding in ballet technique, the overall piece lacked shapes.  To me, a leg extension or arabesque has a certain shape and a resulting aura, which was completely deconstructed and thus absent in Infra.  I’m fascinated by McGregor’s ability to create ballet without shapes, when those very shapes are what I typically see, almost as if his choreography is the absence of whatever it is that defines the art to my eyes.  Fascinating and a little disconcerting, because it almost felt overloaded with little detailed movements.  It’s kind of like staring at a tapestry and trying to count each individually woven stitch, thus losing sight of the bigger picture.  However, in Infra there really is no bigger picture, and only a few subtle changes of mood to inform us that there is a sense of passing time in the piece.  But maybe the point is we should take the time to stare at the stitches in a tapestry from time to time, just to see what’s there.  There’s a moment in Infra where a bunch of people are walking across the stage and one dancer (I don’t know who…I’m still unfamiliar with who’s who in the Royal Ballet.  I only recognized Edward Watson, who is pretty hard to miss!), breaks down and is grief-stricken.  Nobody knows why she’s crying, and the people on stage certainly don’t give a damn, but that’s one of those details that is lost when we don’t take the time to look.

Another interesting moment was one section in the middle where there are a few rectangular spotlights on the stage, neatly arranged in a row with each rectangle containing a duo of a male and female dancer, doing their own phrases of movement which occasionally coincided with another couple’s.  It reminded me of looking at an office building at night, and seeing people at work in the windows, and judging by the fact that during the credits an office building with workers in windows, I think that’s what’s being inferred (Aha!  I got an inference!  Victory!).  The whole piece has a pedestrian quality to it, obviously because of the backdrop with the LED figures walking on a street.  The piece’s structure reminded me of Cunningham’s Biped, although the color (literally and figuratively) of each piece was different.  Biped was more multi-dimensional while Infra, although not really a narrative was linear…ish.  Obviously the effect was different as well, as I was getting this “human aquarium” vibe from Infra.  Like, you’re watching and you can see people/fish communicating with each other, doing things, or being on their own and you can only “infer” what they might be saying.  Sometimes when I go to an aquarium I like to make up a conversation between the fish, like “hey, those fins make you look fat” but that wasn’t appropriate for this piece.

At any rate, I’m a little ambivalent with Infra.  I could see beauty in it, but it wasn’t a beauty that moved me or produces some intense reaction to it.  After I sort of gave in to just letting myself experience it, without looking for anything in particular it had a sort of soothing quality that aquariums have.  And sometimes I like to brainlessly stare at aquariums with no purpose.

Without further ado, Infra (in three parts), for your viewing pleasure (or not…it’s nobody’s fault if you don’t like it):

How ’bout Hershel?

25 Nov

The Washington Post recently ran an article Breaking Pointe, which kind of trashes The Nutcracker cash cow and you know I’ll like any article that shoots it down.  I have to say though, for those who cherish The Nutcracker as a holiday tradition, please continue to do so.  I just have some Scroogian issues that make me a little cranky, and sure I’ll complain about it but I would never try to convince someone that they should stop going to go see it, because it’s any and every audience member’s right to like what they will (although secretly I’m convinced many people don’t like The Nutcracker as much as they think they do, or would like other ballets much more instead!).  Regardless, I wouldn’t want someone trashing my bizarre and unconventional holiday traditions (it’s a long story, we’ll talk about it never) and even I will admit some of Tchaikovsky’s score for the ballet puts a little bounce in my step, like the ubiquitous Russian Dance.  And speaking as a flute player, the Dance of the Reed Pipes IS fun to play.  Sure, many professional flautists roll their eyes and groan at the tune, but hell, I’m a person that is not afraid to admit that I enjoy Pachelbel’s Cannon.  I’m fearless (sort of).

At any rate, I was on board for much of the article, and agree that it’s somewhat regrettable that The Nutcracker is necessary to please the masses and make money.  However, at the same time, I don’t think pleasing the masses is all that awful of a thing to do.  For many, it’s nice to know that a familiar ballet rolls around every year and because that’s generally something that would make me sick of it, I’m glad it’s a ballet that isn’t all that great that occupies that spot.  Although it would be nice as the author pointed out, to have some more diversity in holiday activities.  Although I’m sure she’s thinking more contemporary, daring works, I’m a little more basic…like why not have a Hannukah ballet?  Personally, I would love it if someone with an Ashton-esque ability to work with costumes would do a ballet to Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins.  For reasons unknown to man, this has been one of my favorite books dating back to second grade, even though I’m far from Jewish.  Or even a different Christmas themed ballet would be a welcome change…but Nutcracker has such a vice grip on the holiday season there’s no way any company can take that kind of risk.

Is anyone up to the challenge of turning this story into a ballet?

Taking risks was one of the author’s points in the article, noting the economy is backing companies up into their safety zones.  I can’t remember if it was last year or this year, but ABT was planning one of the most unimaginative season lineups I’ve ever seen.  It was all war horses.  But this was where the article got weird for me and segued into things that I really didn’t think The Nutcracker was responsible for.  Like American dancers being held back from principal roles in favor of foreign born dancers.  That was an unexpected turn that made me run into a wall, but after thinking about it I found the undertone of the article to be a little unnecessarily defensive and whiny.  What the author calls “outsourcing” (poor word choice, in my opinion), the Royal Ballet would call “principal guest artist.”  I fail to see the problem in hiring the right person for the job.  In fact, if anything, I would say the US is OVER-networked, where far too many people are getting hired based on connections and who you know rather than ability (which is one of the things I love about dance…everyone can audition.  It’s much more democratic.).  The author then talks about grooming American dancers…but that’s the point of the corps-soloist-principal progression?  A principal is to be tweaked, not groomed.  It was oddly contradictory for the author to encourage diversity in ballet companies, but then promote the idea of favoring American dancers.  I certainly don’t define diversity as Americans and _____-Americans.  I don’t think the “field lacks commitment to its own dancers.”  I think America in general lacks commitment to its dancers.  After all, ballet is treasured in Cuba and Russia.  As someone who has been to Asian countries many times, I have seen first hand how classical arts are highly valued in those societies (which has its merits and demerits unfortunately).

For me, I agree with what Carlos Acosta had to say about “the issue.”  For many dancers in other countries, there’s a sense of desperation that comes with the job, because they don’t have a plan B, whereas an American dancer can go to school later or even make an okay living just working any full-time job.  For Americans, dance almost always starts out as a hobby that might turn into a job, but for a Cuban child entering a ballet school, the circumstances are much different.  I don’t think American dancers are held back at all; in fact, there are many fine technical American dancers.  But perhaps it is that lack of desperation, the “art is a hobby” philosophy that is so unfortunately ingrained into American culture that has left many of these dancers kind of dry of passion and artistry.  It’s like when I get complimented on my dancing, it’s not because I have great lines or an ability to execute virtuoso maneuvers, because I have neither of those things; I’m complimented for my expressiveness (and it feels SO damn good!).  For those who know me more intimately, they also know I’m one of the nuttiest and most “desperate to dance” people they have ever met, so I would absolutely say that desperation is a big part of what makes me enjoy the opportunity to dance, which translates into the completion of a movement itself.

The author also discusses segregation in ballet, and although I am a huge proponent of role models and visibility, I think claiming ballet to be the most segregated of the arts is…a “misdiagnosis.”  Surely there are racist directors and audience members, but I don’t think the institution of ballet itself is racist (well, maybe the enforcing of pink tights could be considered racist).  After all, Acosta was the Royal Ballet’s first black Romeo and Miyako Yoshida was probably their first Japanese Ondine.  It’s not always rosy, since former NYCB dancer Aesha Ash did mention in some article that she felt certain castings she got were in favor of a particular “powerful” image, but I still think the opportunities are there in many companies.  There is often an argument that money is what prevents many black people from experiencing ballet and certainly ballet does cost money, but it costs money for everyone and doesn’t discriminate.  Now poverty on the other hand IS a result of racism and perpetuates wrongful stereotypes that prevent mobility.  But poverty is a separate issue from racism in ballet.  Call out racist directors but be weary before labeling ballet, which is merely a dance, as being segregated when there really isn’t any intention of segregating anyone.  It may very well be for reasons I don’t comprehend, but I have a tendency to believe it’s people that are always at the root of a problem, so there’s no need to generalize.

So as much as I would like to blame everything in life on The Nutcracker, the truth is, it isn’t the root of problems facing ballet today.  Those are much more complex and require great minds to change.  Not mine…I mean, what do I know about getting into a ballet company?  All I can say is, those who know their place, find it.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Ballet, Second Half

20 Nov

It’s always interesting to see a ballet with different casts (now I know why the Bag Ladies go to 34895764290482 shows of Mayerling!), because of all the little things one can pick up on that they didn’t catch the previous times.  Although I thought charming was the only word to describe La Fille mal gardée, I’m adding “cheeky” to the adjective list.  From the opening overture even, there is a moment where the flute player gets to “flutter tongue,” which is a technique not often used, where the musician has to breathe out to play a note while simultaneously rolling an “r” and yes, it is even harder then it sounds.  First of all, some people aren’t capable of rolling r’s (sucks to be you), you have to maintain a certain amount of tension in your embouchure (which means the shape of your lips) in order to do it, AND you have to be able to do it without laughing, which was always my problem.  Although, if you want to get really crazy there is this song called Lookout for solo flute, and there’s measures where the musician has to SING while playing at the same time (and other funny stuff like clicking the keys without actually playing notes).  I tell you, when my teacher played a little bit of that, she sounded like an alien and I burst into laughter.  It then became something I would periodically ask her to play, just so I could get a laugh out of it.  Meanwhile, she was working on it as part of some flute master class or workshop.  It was serious business, but I’m kind of fond of being inappropriate.

Anyway, this more recent La Fille I watched, starring Marianela Nuñez and Carlos Acosta is hands down the one I will be adding to my wish list.  Obviously I’d love to have both the 1981 and 2005 productions, but who has the money?  Not I (especially with lots of goodies coming out soon!).  One of the wonderful things about the Royal Ballet is their sense of tradition and authenticity, so between the two productions there are hardly any differences, which is pretty impressive considering the near 25 year gap between them.  I noticed a thing here and there because I have a photographic memory (although I think I read somewhere a few years ago that some researchers were claiming that there was no such thing as a photographic memory.  Pffft!), observing things like how they added rain to the thunderstorm scene and changed the lighting, Simone flinging off her shoes with gusto before the clog dance, the part where Nuñez slides down the staircase on her bum when she’s depressed and also there’s a part in the 1981 version where the corps motions at Awain that he was headed for the wrong door which wasn’t in the 2005.  Little things that don’t really matter in the big scheme of things and can be attributed to each dancer’s individual interpretations of characters and updated stage technology, but it keeps ballet fresh and exciting.  For me, anyway.

I have to say that I found Nuñez and Lesley Collier to be fairly comparable.  Each had their strengths as Lise and I enjoyed both of their performances for different reasons.  I think Collier was a little sweeter with just a touch more lightness; Nuñez had loftier jumps and a winning smile.  What puts the 2005 version on my wish list though is Acosta.  Obviously, I like his dancing a lot.  But he’s REALLY good in this ballet and technically superior to Michael Coleman and Acosta’s Colas I think had a real youthfulness to it that was more enjoyable to watch for me.  After reading his book, I get the feeling that Acosta is kind of a child at heart (and a bit of a mama’s boy, but in an endearing sort of way) and also rather goofy even if he doesn’t intend to be…there was some article recently that said after he retires he wants to get pet rabbits.  Again with the rabbits?  That’s some serious attachment to his childhood right there…but then again, it’s something I can relate to as well.  After all, I have an affinity for koalas which can  only be explained by the first toy my parents ever bought for me, a Pot Belly koala, which I aptly named, Koala (and still have to this day, even though they were recalled…way to go mom and dad).  I was devastated when I read an article maybe a week or two ago that said koalas could be extinct in thirty or so years.

At any rate, not only did I like Acosta’s youthful exuberance, he also got some opportunities to show off some very precise batterie, which normally he doesn’t get to do much of.  Sure he gets to do entrechats, but not so much with the other jeté battus and brisés, because the roles he’s in usually has him doing the pirouettes, double tours, huge leaps etc.  Which of course, he does throughout La Fille as well, but his beats are so  exceptional, I think his bottle dance was the best I’ve ever seen…between two that is, but I’m still speaking the truth.  He just shines and seemed really invested in the role of Colas, even if he mentioned in his book that the he was horrified by the banana yellow tights, which were, in my humble opinion, more of a mustard or ochre.  La Fille is one of those ballets though that makes me wonder if it is as much fun to do as it is to watch.  The dancers seem to be having a good time, but when you rehearse it into the ground and it becomes work, can it still be fun to perform?  I would hope so, but through my trolling of the internet I once came upon a ballet forum where dancers discussed in a thread the ballet music they were sick of, and a couple even mentioned Grand Tarantelle (the music for Balanchine’s Tarantella) which was blasphemous to me, because I love that song.  How can anyone get sick of a good tarantella?  I listen to it like ten times a day and it never gets old.

For me, Le Fille mal gardée will probably never get old either.  Royal Ballet is doing it later this season and if all goes according to plan and I win the lottery, I’m totally going to go.  I’m thinking Alina Cojocaru?

Anywhodle, Nuñez/Acosta’s La Fille mal gardée is on YouTube, in its entirety and in FANTASTIC quality, so it’s definitely worth the watch.  Of course, I would recommend adding it to your personal collection so you can watch it sans interruptions and buffering time!

Part 1 (click the channel to watch the rest) 

And just for kicks, Part 8 because it’s the grand pas de deux.  If you’re going to watch anything, watch this:

Chocolate Chip Cookie Ballet, First Half

17 Nov

So today I watched a DVD of the 1981 Royal Ballet production (as if one could settle for another!) of La Fille mal gardée and because I’m totally into this giving ballets my own personal epithet, and I’m going to say La Fille mal gardée is the chocolate chip cookie ballet, which is easier for me to say because I’m not even sure how to pronounce it.  Despite the fact that I can do a pretty convincing French accent (I was a parrot in a past life, I’m sure of it), I have no idea as to how one actually speaks French.  But that’s not really my problem.  At any rate, I dub it the chocolate chip cookie ballet because of its accessibility and overall delightfulness.  If you had a friend who didn’t know a thing about ballet, and I mean absolutely nothing, it would be the perfect ballet to take them to go see.  It’s even more accessible than The Nutcracker cash cow in my opinion.  Sir Ashton’s choreography really put storytelling in its simplest form, and there’s nothing to understand or interpret for yourself because everything is understandable.  Its impossible to watch without a smile on your face and it just makes you feel good.  Like a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven…you know, when the chocolate is melty and the cookie is warm and pliant in your hands…yeah that’s right.  And the world breathed a collective “mmm.”

This was actually the first full length Ashton work I’ve watched, and only the second complete ballet (Symphonic Variations being the first).  I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the versatility in his choreography because I never would have guessed that Symphonic Variations and La Fille mal gardée were by the same person.  Symphonic Variations is more elegant and halcyon, while La Fille is utterly charming.  In fact, I’m pretty sure charming is the only word that can describe it.  Libretto?  Charming.  Score?  Charming.  Choreography?  Ridiculously charming.  It’s interesting that the libretto isn’t particularly complicated (girl loves boy, mother opposes, tries to set girl up with Mr. Moneybags’ son, but after some tomfoolery true love wins in the end), but Ashton has a way of sustaining your attention.  Not event he squirreliest of attention spans will be able to wander away from this ballet, because there is never a dull moment.

There were so many unexpected moments in the choreography that I loved, like when Lise (girl) is upset when Simone (mother) locks her in the house to keep her away from Colas (boy).  Lise sits on the couch pouting, alternating her feet in tendu.  Who would have thought of that?  Well Ashton did, and it just works.  Everything about his choreography in the ballet just works, and is always interesting.  Even the corps gets some top-notch steps, although I nearly gagged when they did a flighty petite allegro in the first act that included a few temps de cuisse, or as I like to call them…well, truthfully I don’t have a clever nickname for them but I should because they’re hellish and always mess me up.  It’s not my fault the step was invented although when I find out who created it, I’m going to kick him in the shins.  Personal issues aside, I enjoyed some of the more unusual choreography as well, like when Colas appears in the upper part of a door, picks Lise up and she hangs there until he sets her down and then goes on to assist her in a promenade in attitude, holding her hand from above.  And of course Alain (boy Lise doesn’t want to marry) with his wacky, distinct movement style will have anyone and everyone chuckling.  Lise may not want to marry him, but he’s such a lovable character.

I have to say that one of the things that really impressed me about the ballet was how Ashton staged the theatrical elements.  Not many ballets have dancers dress in full animal costumes like the chickens in this one (although later on there’s a real live pony brought on stage…interesting choice to mix live animals and costumed dancers), or a man cross dress as an old biddy (Simone is danced by a man), but it really adds a fun dimension to the production as a whole.  However, probably the most interesting aspect of this ballet was Ashton’s use of props.  There’s the ribbon pas de deux between Lise and Colas where they’re dancing with a long pink ribbon, spinning in and out of it, looping it around each other and before you know it, they’re engulfed in an oversized game of cat’s cradle.  And I mean that literally…at one point, they make a design with the ribbon that is shown to the audience and is sure to garner applause.  The ribbon motif is repeated later in a dance by the corps that frames the main duo, and at one point Lise is perched in an attitude on pointe, holding onto several ribbons that radiate outward like a maypole, and at each end is a corps member orbiting her, which causes her to slowly turn.  And then there’s an actual maypole dance where the corps dance in and out of each other to weaving the ribbons.  I was under the impression that people just ran around the pole and the ribbons would spiral downward and had no idea that it was so intricate, so that was neat to see.  And there were clever things like Lise’s series of echappés and sous-sous while she churned butter or Alain dancing with his beloved red umbrella.  A lot of great work with props that I don’t think has ever been so evident in other ballets.  Like scythes and bushels of wheat…Colas actually sneaks into the house hidden in some of those bushels of wheat, and when he sprung out I was so startled I swore out loud.  Good thing I didn’t see this one live or I could have burned some children’s ears.

Overall, this production was wonderful, and I loved Lesley Collier as Lise.  She was darling, and had a really crisp arabesque line.  She wasn’t trying to hike her leg up in an overly indulgent, contorted arabesque, but would take the simplest path and get there.  Her arabesques were always so square and spot on, and I loved the efficiency of her movement (trademark Royal Ballet for you).  Just a short clip on YouTube, however, I noticed that someone uploaded the more recent filming of La Fille with Carlos Acosta and Marianela Nuñez (Royal Ballet again, obviously), so I think I’m going to watch that for Wednesday night’s blog and do a comparison.  Mostly for me, so I can figure out which one I’ll add to the Amazon wishlist, but as always, you’re free to read.  I won’t stop you.

He has a nephew?!?

22 Sep

Finished reading Acosta’s autobiography and it did not disappoint.  Some rough spats and heartbreaking transitions, but there were funny moments after he made his way upward, like meeting Princess Di despite not knowing a word of English, knowing nothing of Christmas and Santa Clause…obviously, nobody should expect that he would know such things, but I found his approach in encountering new cultures and how those new experiences made him nervous, quite endearing and refreshing.  So many…well, jerks, travel abroad and expect a red carpet treatment (a most unfortunate impression of Americans that I’m ashamed of…we’re not all like that!) and here you have a guy, completely terrified of making a fool of himself, and yet he tries so hard.  It’s just sweet and very humble of him.  Having read his book makes me interested in Cuba though, and I can’t tell you how much I want to try this “roasted pork, fried plantains, rice and beans” deal they have going on.  Apparently it’s something they eat all the time, but man alive was I starvacious (Not to mention I found it hysterical that while recovering from surgery in Houston, he drowned his sorrows in food, demanding to celebrate a friend’s pregnancy with fried chicken wings and pork crackling).  A quick search turns up no Cuban restaurants in Columbus, so this may end in a disastrous attempt at home cooking.

There once were rumors circulating in the mill of Hollywood being interested in making a movie about him, and the obvious questions were whether he would play himself (which he wants to do, since not many could do the dancing) and whether or not that would be a good choice because its virtually unheard of to play oneself in a narrative film.  But this is Carlos Acosta…the same man who went to ABT and had the gall to ask to join as a principal (they rejected the idea…ten points to the Royal Ballet for doing the opposite!).  I don’t think he’s afraid of being the first to do anything.  Who knows where those rumors are headed, but I hope to see it come to fruition.  I do wonder if they’re holding back because of potential political backlash, since many Americans still have an outdated, demonized view of Cuba.  Especially considering the fact that Cuba’s public health care system saved the lives of his mother and sister, things can go two ways…people can see it and realize how important a public health care option is or it could be used as a way to enforce narrow minded views of associating public health care with “Communism.”  I would hate to see a great story fuel a political debate, and Carlos Acosta is no fan of politics, but a movie would definitely scratch that mosquito bite.

Interestingly enough, some have suggested that his nephew play a younger version of him and I had no idea his nephew was even a dancer.  He’s not just a dancer, but a near doppelganger of the Flying Cuban himself.  It’s uncanny that not only do they look alike, but Yonah is certainly on the path to ballet stardom.  Coincidentally, he starred in Tocororo, a ballet by Carlos Acosta somewhat based on his life, which inspires ideas to have him play a young Carlos in a movie.  It would definitely work, although for the nitpicky, Carlos turns to the right and Yonah is a lefty.  File that one under “movie inconsistencies.”  Although there isn’t much of Yonah on YouTube yet, he is worth the watch.  Here he is practicing Don Q, and an excerpt from his Acteon variation (ironically, two that Carlos is also known for).

Not my picture (credit to Margaret Willis of dancing-times.co.uk) but 'oly smokes the resemblance!

Not my picture (credit to Margaret Willis of dancing-times.co.uk) but 'oly smokes the resemblance!

On the topic of ballet movies though, the world down under and Toronto are all abuzz as the first few reviews of Mao’s Last Dancer trickle in.  I don’t think it’s debuted in Oz and Kiwiland yet, but a few of my Aussie acquaintances are talking about going to the premiere soon, and it makes me green with envy.  Although I knew this movie would be coming soon, I didn’t know there was no US release date set, and if it turns into one of those “select theaters” deals, someone’s going to have a cranky ballet fan on their hands.  This does however give me some time to read the book, although I’m obviously not the only one with that idea since all copies are checked out from my local libraries.  Perhaps they didn’t want it competing with Fame, which I’ll probably go see but inevitably have issues with (the trailers are swarming the tele and Kherington Payne does not appear to be a promising actress).  I’m sure the boys and girls in the editing room and behind the cameras will do an amazing job with improved technology, but it’s as Acosta says in his book…for the privileged, art is somewhat of a hobby, and they don’t understand despair and desperation.  I expect little substance and grit from the actors…but I am going to try my best to reserve judgment until I see it.

I should note that in the original Fame, Antonia Franceschi, who played the prima “Hilary” (and yes that is for sure with one “L” not two) was born in my hometown (woot!).  After watching the original Fame just a few months ago, I wondered what she did afterwards, and she must have had a wonderful career since she danced with NYCB for twelve years.  Apparently she now works in London, doing various dance things and there is one lone video of her work on YouTube.  It’s moderny and reminds me of ink…a neat video dance.

PS.  Since I can’t get a copy of Mao’s Last Dancer yet, next on the reading queue is John Gruen’s People Who Dance, which chronicles the (short) stories of twenty-two famous dancers.

PSS. I missed my Monday deadline and now my calendar is all wonky.  Upsetting.